Christmas trees scarce?
Supply chain issues caused by COVID-19 have delayed some shipments of artificial Christmas trees. What will the 2021 Christmas season look like for suppliers of freshly cut Christmas evergreens? This is the N&O special report.
The 2021 White House Christmas Tree, which stands in the main reception room of the People’s House, is another North Carolina-grown Fraser fir.
North Carolina has sent 14 freshly cut trees to the White House since the tradition began in the 1960s, surpassing every other state.
The choice of the White House’s official tree has nothing to do with politics. Growers first compete in their home state or region and then compete in the National Tree and Wreath Competition sponsored by the National Christmas Tree Association.
This year’s competition was held in West Jefferson, North Carolina in August.
The competitions take place every two years, with the winners of the current and the following year being selected at each meeting.
Growers take trees to the competition, which is judged by industry representatives and consumers. Entries must be between 6 and 8 feet tall, not artificially colored or flocked, or have any branches or limbs that are wired, tied, or inserted in any way.
Trees are judged on attributes such as color, shape, fullness and needle structure.
Once a breeder is named a National Grand Champion, White House staff travel to a field of the farmer’s choice to pluck the exact tree. This year’s tree grown by Peak Farms of Laurel Springs is a Fraser fir that was about 20 feet tall in the field, ensuring that the tree will get the 18.5 feet required when the trunk is pruned.
After the tree is felled, it will be trucked to Washington, DC, and then taken to the White House in a horse-drawn carriage. There it is installed in the Blue Room, where it can be seen by thousands of vacationers.
A boost for the arborist
Breeder Rusty Estes and his family traveled to Washington the weekend before Thanksgiving to deliver the tree, and he said they plan to return and visit it again to see it decorated.
To light the tree, workers remove the blue room chandelier and use the light fixture to run an electrical cable through the trunk. Every year the tree is decorated with a different theme. The tree is adorned with more than 3,500 ornaments and thousands of LED lights.
The White House and grounds are a national park, and the White House Christmas tree is a gift from the grower to the nation. However, the National Park Service usually buys additional trees from the same grower to decorate other areas of the White House.
Choosing a tree for the White House can make a grower’s business a big boost, said Joe Freeman, who owns Mistletoe Meadows, another Christmas tree operation in Laurel Springs.
Freeman was elected Grand Champion in 2007 and afterward said, “Everyone wanted a tree from the place that sent you to the White House.”
On the way to Washington
Before heading to the White House, the 2021 National Christmas Tree was loaded onto an NC Department of Agriculture semi-trailer truck that had the trailer wrapped in a giant NC Christmas tree billboard.
A driver took the truck to a farewell party at the Ashe County Courthouse in Jefferson, accompanied by police and led by Santa and Mrs. Claus in a sleigh pulled by six ponies.
A loudspeaker on the steps of the courthouse boomed: “It’s the best time of the year.”
The tree was dispatched with a blessing from a local pastor.